A cymbal, which would have been one of a pair, sold by the 長珍 “Cheung Chan” firm.
Wing Hing Long Museum, Tingha
Convex surface of cymbal
Concave surface of dome of cymbal
WHERE WAS THIS OBJECT USED?
The answer to this question is not yet known.
The large-character inscription on the cymbal’s convex surface suggest that the seller was a firm named 長珍 “Cheung Chan”. At least one of a pair of cymbals in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (accession no. 89.4.12; The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889), which bear a close resemblance to this cymbal, has a similar firm name—長友 “Cheung Yau”—emblazoned, also in large vertical left-aligned characters, on its convex surface: see https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/180012327
The brush-written ligature at left within the concave surface of the dome of cymbal (“足〢”) equates to the Engish “/2”, indicating that the cymbal was one of two, as would be expected.
The English word “cymbal” encompasses three classes of percussive instruments in Chinese, which are respectively designated by the characters “鐃” nàauh/náo, “鈸” buht/bó, and “鑔” chá/chǎ (Cantonese Yale followed by Mandarin Pinyin romanisations). Instruments of these classes bear a close resemblance to each other, and as a consequence these names have often been used loosely, contributing along with other factors to diverse naming preferences in different languages and places for the multifarious instruments of these classes. A detailed paper by Assoc. Prof. Te-hwa SHIH, Department of Chinese Music, Tainan National University of the Arts, on the history of Chinese cymbals and their forms provides guidance as to the most appropriate Chinese name for this pair of cymbals (施 Shih, “中國鈸的歷史及其形制之研究” [Zhōngguóbó de lìshǐ jí qí xíngzhì zhī yánjiū “Research into the History of the Chinese Cymbal and its Forms”]). It traces the historical development of the three classes of Chinese cymbals and untangles the confusing array of sometimes contradictory names used for them to arrive at a systematic characterisation of each class, which is supported by a broad range of evidence. In summary, this characterisation gives “鐃” nàauh to be thick-bodied cymbals with a small reverse-cone-shaped dome; “鈸” buht to be thick-bodied cymbals with a large hemispherical dome; and “鑔” chá to be thin-bodied cymbals with a small hemispherical dome. According to this characterisation, this cymbal would appear to be a large example of the “鑔” chá class of cymbal. Preliminary investigation of the Cantonese-language names used for cymbals by musicians who play traditional forms of Cantonese music reveals that the expression 大鑔 “great chá” is used for cymbals of the size of this cymbal, and that this expression is seemingly favoured by older traditionally trained musicians. The term 大鈸 “great buht” is an alternative appellation for the same instrument; the word “鈸” buht is, however, generally favoured as a loose coverall term for “cymbal” (there is also an orthodox plural designation for the class: the compound word 鐃鈸 nàauhbuht “cymbals”). Curiously, it appears that the large cymbals used today to play Cantonese music are all of the “鐃” nàauh profile, with a small reverse-cone-shaped dome; however, the term “鐃” nàauh is not generally used to describe them. This raises the research question—to which the translator does not have an answer—of whether this cymbal is the original style of Cantonese 大鑔 “great chá”, which have been largely replaced in recent history by cymbals of a different profile. For a photograph of a pair of Cantonese 大鑔 “great chá”, see http://www.huachuangzaixian.com/?news_145/868.html For a Cantonese-language video demonstration of the traditional playing technique, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdJ2TLkB5Ok (2 minutes 42 seconds in).
This is a continually evolving website, and more information about this object will be published as further research is conducted.